OUR SAY: All eyes on funding and staffing for cancer treatment

TUESDAY would not have been the first time Jillian Skinner took a call from a Nationals MP from Orange with concerns about health services. 

In her time as the opposition health spokeswoman she would have taken scores from the then member Russell Turner.

Health minister since 2011, Mrs Skinner would recall visiting Orange in August 2006 and signing a Central Western Daily radiotherapy campaign poster as a pledge to deliver this life-saving treatment to the people of the central west.

Mrs Skinner was one of many politicians who were persuaded by Orange City Council, local health professionals and the personal stories of cancer patients in this region that there could be no excuse for not providing the full range of cancer treatment here for the people of the central west.

True to her word Orange’s new hospital was built to accommodate two radiotherapy machines and a full suite of cancer treatments.

When her Nationals colleague Andrew Gee called the Health Minister on Tuesday seeking answers about staff shortages that threatened the provision of chemotherapy in the face of a growing demand, she would have known just how hard won cancer services were in the region.

Mrs Skinner would have recalled meeting women in August 2006 who had survived cancer, almost always after treatment in Sydney, and who were determined that treatment should be available in the central west.

More than any other politician in the NSW Parliament today the Health Minister knows what is at stake when fears are raised about the ability of the local health service to meet its obligation to provide cancer treatment.

On Tuesday Mr Gee said he had received assurances from the local health service that no patient would be turned away from cancer treatment in Orange and that staffing levels would be reviewed.

It is an important undertaking but it must include an unwavering commitment to the timely treatment of all cancer patients.

As Mrs Skinner knows, delays in treatment and travelling to Sydney in the past caused unnecessary suffering to people whose lives hung in the balance.


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